I’m not sure if I really knew what I was looking for back in 2015 when Willow and I left our home state of Tasmania on the camper van road trip of a lifetime.
We arrived on the mainland as if having been launched into space, into a world so different to our lives prior – that was the unsettling consolation of the suburbs, and the endless work week.
Willow and I were now ‘floating in space’ as we headed North and there it was quiet – as if someone had switched off a radio in the other room that was just a little bit too loud. We left the sub-tropical wonderland that is the East coast and on a boundless outback road I started to know who I was again.
That was 5 years ago. Half a decade.
I’ve always loved the notion of visiting places that make you feel small. There is something humbling about being surrounded by desert plains and knowing that the world is a bit bigger than you may have imagined it to be. Of course, I’m sure astronomers feel this way often. So, as Willow and I set up camp on another evening under the milky way, I wondered what our lives would have in store for us.
The road trip of a lifetime quickly turned into an endless summer, and in turn became the nomadic life we live today, and anyone who lives on an island will tell you, if you keep driving in one direction long enough you will eventually hit the coast again.
So, in September 2016 Willow and I arrived in Perth and stayed at our friend’s house. He got me a job in a bar he was managing and for a couple of nights a week I’d wash glassware.
When you are ‘floating in space’ even the slightest change of events can impact your trajectory considerably. When you are travelling, decisions are made every day on which way to go and how long to stay, it is only when something beautiful occurs – something so life changing – that one considers every event that lead to that point and stands in fright at the thought of it turning out any other way.
Fate is for the foolish, for do we not know that our lives are ours to live?
On a Wednesday evening in late October I met Stephanie.
We decided to meet at the train station on our first date and found a bar down the street to have a drink.
Stephanie ordered a cider and I got a beer and a bowl of chilli calamari (I’m not sure of the relevance of this!). We shared our life stories and how we both came to be in the same city and what we soon realised was that each of us had made the decision to leave our old lives behind. Mine in Hobart, and Stephanie’s in the United Kingdom before arriving in Australia on a working holiday.
I checked that Stephanie liked cats.
When it was time to say goodbye we walked back to the train station, and at the end of Murray Street mall, for the briefest of moments, we kissed.
Stephanie and I had another date and I introduced her to Willow. On our third date I packed a picnic with supplies from my new favourite deli and we drove out to City Beach to watch the sunset, just the three of us.
We shared countless evenings together over the next months but unfortunately our futures were yet to be decided – Stephanie had plans to meet her friend back on the East Coast before her visa expired, and I was to continue on to South Australia.
We spent her last day in Perth together in each others arms – the hardest of goodbyes – but later as we waved farewell, I just knew this wasn’t the end.
I had a decision to make.
Willow and I were set to leave Perth in 2 weeks. It would take us 2 months to get to Adelaide. Could I just let Stephanie slip away? What if we never see each other again? I couldn’t just ask her to come back and spend two months with me in a camper van with my cat.. could I?
But that’s exactly what I did, and she said yes. Our lives changed forever.
If there is ever a test of a relationship it would be living in a camper van together. Willow and I were very much accustomed to life in our home on wheels but how would Stephanie cope?
How beautiful it was to see her friendship with Willow develop, to see her purring on Stephanie’s lap, and to see Stephanie give her her morning pats.
Something else had developed. Stephanie and I fell in love – well and truly.
How would one even summarise the next few years? Oh the adventures the three of us had together – and the pain of the times we were apart.
If I were to choose one moment that every event prior had culminated in it would be a moonlit evening we spent at Rainbow Beach in 2019. The evening I asked Steph to marry me.
Our futures were decided.
Allow me now to bring you to our next most momentous day.
* * *
On a mild May day in 2020 Stephanie and I gave Willow a quick cuddle before leaving her to her afternoon nap in the van. We made our way down to the water and pushed out our stand-up paddle board into the reservoir – a place we had spent many afternoons floating around
But this wasn’t going to be our usual paddle adventure. With us was a small arrangement of friends and family, and Sam, our celebrant.
We paddled across the reservoir where we nestled our board amongst the water lilies. With a few friends floating in a blow-up dinghy beside us and others looking on from the shore we shared our vows and very carefully exchanged rings.
Together, to explore, laugh, and play, and most of all love.
Stephanie passed around our wedding cupcakes for all to share and we each had a cheeky glass of sparkling wine as the sun fell below the trees.
We arrived back at the van and signed our marriage certificate with Willow still asleep. We woke her up from her nap and she was none the wiser – for what does a pair of rings mean to a cat that knows only love?
So, now our lives go on, just the three of us, and as for that thing I started looking for 5 years ago – I think I have found it now.
* * *